The recently created No Offense Improv Troupe held its first meeting in Studio A of Yulman Theater on Sunday, and will hold its second meeting tonight at 5 p.m.
Sunday’s meeting had only three attendees. Regular meetings will take place twice weekly this term, on Sundays at 4 p.m. and on Thursdays at 5 p.m.
No Offense Improv Troupe President Brad Leavitt ’16 stated that those interested in coming to a meeting or joining the improv troupe need no prior experience. In fact, he said, “We actually encourage people who have no experience to join. People come in, and after five minutes you’ll see it’s a very relaxed environment and you feel no pressure. You can just jump in and have a great time.”
Leavitt is most excited to see where the club goes, commenting, “As more members join and the club grows in size, we’re hoping to eventually start an improv troupe where we perform once a term.” He also hopes to see the club gain the capability to bring in professional improvisers to perform for the campus community and lead a club meeting.
As of now, the club’s meetings consist of improvisation games and scenes, led by members of the executive board.
Executive board members include: Leavitt, president; Matt Mintz ’18, vice president; Cyrus Shahgholi ’18, treasurer; Melanie Gragg ’18, secretary; and Abigail Lehner ’18, social chair.
Leavitt said Mintz has the most improv experience of anyone in the group, with seven years of experience prior to college, and that he “knows tons of improv games” and “knows exactly when to call a scene.”
Gragg’s interest in writing for “Saturday Night Live” after graduating from Union led her to No Offense Improv Troupe, according to Leavitt, because she knows that the majority of the show’s writers were involved with college improv troupes prior to being hired.
Leavitt said that Lehner “has been, so far, the backbone of getting the club started.”
Shahgholi and Leavitt both took ATH-125: “Improvisation 1” last spring, which was one of Leavitt’s inspirations for starting an improv club at Union. Leavitt stated, “I was interested in doing it before I got to school, but I didn’t know they offered it” as a course. He “fell in love with” improv after taking the course last spring, and “decided to start a club so everyone can do it, aside from just the people who are in the class.”
The appeal of improv, for Leavitt, is “watching people coming up with funny things on the spot. I love doing that myself, I love being funny, I love interacting with people, I love being in a carefree environment where everyone’s not insulted by the things I say, where everything is taken lightly and where I really can express myself. It also really helped me with my speaking skills, I think, and being serious while I talk, ironically.”
Leavitt believes that his improv troupe is a unique way “to improve your social skills, public speaking skills, and increase self confidence as a person, because there’s no better way to improve being able to speak your mind than actually doing it in a very relaxed and carefree environment.”
Though Leavitt and Shahgholi got involved with improv through a course offered by the Department of Theater and Dance, Leavitt emphasized, “We don’t want people thinking this only for theater majors. Yes, it is a theater-based club, but every major is welcome. If you’re not a theater major and you don’t have experience, don’t be afraid to come out of your element.”
Student Forum members approved the club, placing it on the standard 10-week probationary period, on Sept. 30, according to Leavitt.
The group will be off of its 10-week probationary period by the second week of winter term, at which point the club will be able to request a budget from the Student Forum Finance Committee.